That power, against which, the witnesses direct their testimony, during the 1260 years in which they are to prophecy clothed in sackcloth, is, in scripture, denominated antichrist, 1 John, 2:18. Ye have heard that antichrist shall come. If we compare with this text, 2 Thess. 2:8, And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the LORD shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming; we shall find clearly ascertained, the fact, both of his existence and his destruction.
Two questions engage the attention of enquiring Christians, with no small degree of interest—What constitutes the antichrist?—When shall he come to his end? We shall offer a few observations on both these.
signifies an opposite Christ or one in opposition to Christ. One may be opposite to another, as an avowed enemy, or he may be opposite, as a rival, or a competitor, for the honour, which really, and of right belongs to the other. It is in this last sense that antichrist obtains this name, as being an opposer to Christ, by pretending that the honours, and rights, which exclusively belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, belong also to him. We may, generally learn, what really belongs to Christ, by the presumptuous claims, and arrogant pretensions of antichrist.
Antichrist is a complex term. Sometimes, indeed, it is represented in scripture, as one person, that wicked—the man of sin—the son of perdition. The mystery of iniquity is then personified: But the apostacy—the antichrist, is really a complex system.—“It includes the beasts of the pit, of the sea, and of the earth; the head, the horns, the image of the beast; the mother of harlots, and all who are drunken with the cup of her intoxication.”*[(Alexander) M’Leod on the Rev., p. 260.]
Its grand constituent parts are given in detail, in the XIII. chapter of the Revelation, under the symbolical representation of a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads, and ten horns; verse 1.—a beast coming up out of the earth with two horns like a lamb; verse 11—And an image, which the second beast causes to be made to the first.—verse 14. These three, the beast of the sea—the beast of the earth, and the image of the beast, include all the component parts of the antichristian system, and to one or other of these, or to them all together, every other description of antichrist, under whatever symbol, may be referred.
The beast of the sea, is the civil powers of the Western Roman empire, in its divided state; for it is represented as having 7 heads, and 10 horns with crowns.
The 7 heads refer, not only to the seat of this power, “the capitol of which was located on seven well known hills,”†[The city of Rome, “Urbs septicollis.”] the seven heads are seven mountains, upon which the woman sitteth; but also to the seven different forms of government, under which the Roman empire passed, and there are seven kings.
The 10 crowned horns are the 10 different kingdoms or dynasties, into which the Latin or Roman empire was divided. They correspond exactly with the 10 horns of the fourth beast in the vision of Daniel, chap·7:7 and with the 10 toes of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, chap. 2:41, 42. These 10 horns, or 10 toes, are the different powers within the limits of the Western Roman empire, after it ceased to be one great sovereignty under one despot. The beast appeared to John with these ten horns.—This sets aside all application of the beast of the sea to Rome pagan; because the empire was not divided into ten kingdoms, until after the death of Constantine, when the empire was become, at least nominally, Christian.
The beast of the earth is the ecclesiastical hierarchy, embracing all ecclesiastical power, order, and worship, devoted to the support of the antichristian apostacy. It symbolizes with the “little horn” “which makes war with the saints,” and “speaks great words against the Most High,”*[Dan. 7:8, 21, 25.] and with the “mother of harlots,” that is seated upon the “scarlet coloured beast,” and “drunken with the blood of the saints,”†[Rev. 17:3, 6.] also with the “false prophet,” who works miracles before the beast, with which “he deceives them that have the mark of the beast and worship his image.”‡[Rev. 19:20.] This beast is seen coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. This system is earthly in its origin and nature, as opposed to the true church of Christ, which is of heavenly origin and of a heavenly nature.
He has two horns like a lamb. He professes the mildness, the meekness, and the innocence of a lamb, but he is really a beast of prey, and speaks like a dragon. Instead of preaching the gospel in its purity, as the glad tidings of salvation, he utters blasphemies, and his speeches breathe of cruelty and death.
His two horns are the two orders of the Romish hierarchy—the regular and the secular Clergy. The first comprehending all the monastic orders, as being in some measure secluded from the world. The second embracing all the parochial clergy, who profess to live in the world and take the charge of souls.
This beast causeth the people who dwell on the earth to worship the first beast, i.e., to yield submission to the civil power, however wicked and tyrannical, as if it were the ordinance of God. And finally it causes an image to be made to the first beast. This image is the papacy. The pope of Rome is the creature of the church. The cardinals as the representatives of the Romish church, or second beast, create him.§[“Quem creant adorant,” whom they create, they worship.] He is made the image of the civil power or first beast; for “he is the common centre,” “the principle of unity to the ten kingdoms of the beast,” i.e., the empire, and procures for the civil rulers, “a blind obedience from their subjects.” He delivers over to the secular arm, at his pleasure. He claims to be set over the political empires of the earth, and to dispose of crowns and kingdoms. He is equally tyrannical with the first beast, for he has received power from his makers to cause that as many as will not worship him shall be put to death. This whole complete system is the antichrist. There is observable in it throughout, a regular derivation of power, and dependence. The pope derives his power from the church—the woman clothed in scarlet. She is supported by the beast having seven heads and ten horns—the civil governments of the Western Empire. And the beast receives from the dragon, his power, his seat, and all his authority: and this dragon is declared, Rev. 12:9, to be—the devil. He is as the soul of the whole system. From beginning to end, through every part of this complex system of apostacy, which is to waste the true church of Christ 1260 years, and finally slay the witnesses of the Redeemer, it is diabolical, and cannot be acknowledged as the ordinance of God, by any conscientious Christian.
The question, so anxiously asked by every lover of the church of Christ, When shall the end of these things be? When shall antichrist be brought down? demands our attention.
The time is fixed in Jehovah’s decree, when the mystery of God shall be finished, by bringing the mystery of iniquity to an end. But as it is a mysterious providence indeed, the sober Christian will not be confident in deciding with certainty, when that end shall be.
The number of years, during which antichrist shall be permitted to exercise his complex system of misrule, tyranny, and superstition, is limited to 1260 days,*[Rev. 12:6.] a prophetical day being put for a year.†[Ezek. 4:6; Numb. 14:34.] The difficulty is to know when this period commences.
In Daniel’s prophecy, chap. 7:25, we are informed that the saints of the Most High shall be given into the hand of the little horn. The little horn symbolizes the hierarchy of the church of Rome. The hand of the little horn will represent the power, by which the church executes her designs. This power is the pope, whom she creates for this purpose. But some other power distinct from the little horn, must give the saints into his hand.—There appears to be a league between the church and the beast of the bottomless pit. This beast carries her, and she in return causes the nations to worship the beast and receive his mark in their foreheads, or at least in their right hands; open and avowed, or hidden and implicit subjection to the thrones of iniquity, with activity in supporting their unhallowed claims.
We may expect then, that in this mutual co-operation, the civil power will be that, which will give the saints into the hand of the executive power of the church. We find a remarkable instance of this in the emperor Phocas, who, for brutality, tyranny, and blood-thirsty cruelty, may rank with Caligula, Nero, or Domitian, when in the year 606, he constituted pope Boniface III. universal Bishop, and head of the church, and required all the churches to acknowledge the papal supremacy. This was indeed, a giving the saints of the Most High into the hand of the little horn. The year 606, therefore, seems to be the time from whence to date the rise of the antichristian apostacy. By adding 1260 years to 606, we are brought to the year 1866. And if we are to reckon according to our own calendar, it will be so long until antichrist come to his end.
There is, however, something in the numbers used by John that seems to favour the mode of calculation in use among the Jews. Their months were 30 days each. Of course their year consisted of 360 days only. The period of antichrist’s reign is represented by John under different forms. Twice it is said to be 1260 days.*[Rev. 11:3; 12:6.] Once it is denominated, a time, and times, and half a time.†[Rev. 12:14.] And twice it is represented as 42 months.‡[Rev. 11:2; 3:5.] All these point out the same period.
Time is put for one year;§[Dan. 4:16.] times will then be two years, and half a time will be half a year. Three years and a half, of twelve months each, make forty and two months: and forty two months of thirty days each, amount to 1260 days, i.e., years, according to prophetic style. Now, as all these point out the same period, it would seem that the same principle should regulate the whole—that no interpretation should be given to the days that would make them differ from the months. If the forty two months are taken to be thirty day months, according to the Jewish calculations they will produce 1260 days. But if they contain either more or less, they will not. But twelve months of 30 days each, will not make one year of our calendar. They will produce 360 days only.—The difference of five days and almost six hours each years during the whole 1260, will amount to eighteen years, round numbers.—These, according to this calculation, must be subtracted from 1866, which would bring us to the year 1848. If this calculation be correct, less than 30 years will put an end to the antichristian system.
This mode of calculation will be further justified, by the co-incidence of the probable destruction of one of the principal horns of the beasts which will appear by another process of calculations taken from the specific threatening of the second commandment.
Of all the civil powers that belong to the ten horns, none have so remarkably distinguished themselves in the support of the hierarchy and the image of its creation, as the present British government. Though professedly protestant, yet have they done all in their power to aid and support the tottering fabric of the man of sin. Rome has been saved from destruction by British cannon. How warmly has this power testified her attachment to popery, by establishing it in Canada, and in Corsica during the short time it was attached to the crown of Great Britain! And has she not been the principal support of the antichristian system, against the terrible attack made on it by Revolutionary France? It is true, that in the late re-establishment of the pope, after the downfall of Buonaparte, the power of the Greek church united with the power of the English church, i.e., Russia and Britain joined heart and hand. How strikingly are they exemplified, by the two women with the wind in their wings, Zech. 5:9. who bear away the ephah, with the woman of wickedness, to build it an house in the land of Shinar and to establish it, and set it there on its own base. Thus did these two powers restore to, and re-establish the Roman pontiff, in his ancient antichristian dignity, in his own Babylon.—This was to establish the woman of wickedness—the scarlet woman on her own base. Yet still in the whole history of the transactions of the British government in relation to the pope and his interest, they are the most active and zealous supporters, and to them he acknowledges he is the most indebted. It is reasonable then to suppose that they should stand and fall together.
According to the threatening of the second commandment, the iniquities of the fathers shall be visited upon the children of them that hate the Lord, to the third and fourth generation; that is, in relation to public, or national wickedness, persisted in, from generation to generation, God will not delay the execution of national judgments longer than the third, or at farthest the fourth generation.
The present British government was constituted upon the ruins of the ancient Reformation. The blood of the Martyrs shed in the times of persecutions was never purged from the throne of Britain.
The period of a generation according to scripture reckoning is forty years.*[Numb. 32:13; Psalm 95:10.] The present government of Britain commenced with the Revolution of 1688. Let us then add four generations (the longest extension of divine forbearance, in relation to national punishments,) to the commencement of the British government. Four times forty make 160. This number added to 1688, brings us to the year 1848, precisely the same year, in which, according to the former calculation, the whole system of antichrist is to give up the ghost. It is astonishing how the one synchronises with the other.
Let us, however, beware of deciding peremptorily, in this mysterious calculation. The prophetic numbers are certain, and the prediction infallible, but human calculations are liable to mistake.
These 42 months of 30 days each, and their product 1260 days, may refer, not to the kind of years, but to their number only.—Neither more nor less than 1260 years, is the point expressly determined. They may be solar years. These are true years, for they are according to nature. If they are to be thus reckoned, the man of sin will retain his power, at least to a certain degree, for 47 years yet to come.
There are other numbers mentioned by the prophet Daniel, which ought not to be overlooked, because they must have reference to a period either immediately preceding or succeeding the commencement of the Millennium. These are found in chap. 12:11, 12—“And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.”
There are here two specific periods, one of 30, and another of 45 years, making 75 years, distinct from the period of 1260 years. If these succeed the commencement of the Millennium, as is generally supposed, then it would appear, that 30 years from that period, will bring about a general improvement of the world. All nations shall have begun, and considerably progressed in the work of reformation—the Jews brought to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, as the promised Messiah, and the heathens, generally made acquainted with the true God, will have embraced Christianity.—But it will require 45 years more, or 1335 years from the commencement of the antichristian system, until the Millennium be at its height; when the light of the moon shall be as the light of. the sun, and the light of the sun shall be seven fold—when the glory of the church shall shine in all its meridian splendor.
A late writer*[(Archibald) Mason on the Church’s Happy Prospect. Glasgow, North Britain, 1813.] who combines judicious observation with true evangelical piety, supposes, that both these periods of Daniel’s precede the commencement of the happy Millennium. He considers Daniel and John, as presenting “two different schemes of prophecy, in which, though they most harmoniously agree, different numbers and symbols are employed”—“a double scheme of numbers relating to the rise and fall of antichrist, and to the subjugation and emancipation of the church of God, embracing two conspicuous dates, one of which exactly agrees to the numbers of Daniel, and the other to the number of John, and both harmoniously terminate in the same year.”
He attaches considerable weight to the analogy between the Old Testament Babylonish captivity, and the New. As there were different times of the Jews being carried to Babylon, and as many corresponding periods of their return; but one principal captivity, and one most general and public return; so in relation to antichrist, of which Babylon was a type, it is not unreasonable to suppose, that something of the same kind may be found. And this is found in the predictions of Daniel and John, embracing two different periods for the rise and fall of antichrist, but one more public and conspicuous, in the accomplishment of which the prophecies of both coincide, which perfectly reconciles their different schemes of prophecy.
The author observes, “The 1335 days are Daniel’s gross number,*[Dan. 12:1, 2.] which has a respect to the church’s low condition, and to the reign and tyranny of the antichristian horn.—In this number there are three other numbers included, and they are brought before us in this chapter. The first of them is mentioned in verse 7; time, times, and an half. The second of these numbers is stated in verse 11—a thousand two hundred and ninety days. In this number there is an addition of 30 days made to 1260 days, (the time, times, and a half.) Those 30 days constitute Daniel’s second number. The third number is discovered by what is said in the 12th verse,—blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. From this it is evident, that 45 days are added to the 1290 days, which raise that number to 1335 days. The period of 45 days forms Daniel’s third number—Distinct and important events, which will be most conspicuous accomplishments of scripture predictions, will commence at the explanation of each of Daniel’s three numbers, which are contained in his 1335 years.”
The author’s view of these important events, is briefly, the following; That Daniel’s first number 1260, commenced with the decree of the emperor Justinian in 533, when that emperor constituted the bishop of Rome the head over all the churches. That this is the first rise of antichrist, according to the scheme of prophecy, by Daniel—That it terminated in 1792, at the commencement of the terrible wars in Europe with Revolutionary France. Then commenced the thirty years—Daniel’s second number; when the judgment began to sit upon antichrist, and he as a great state prisoner is put upon his trial, which, however, is not to be brought to a final issue at the end of the 30 years, but is still in progress.
Nevertheless at that time, an important accomplishment of scripture predictions, may be expected. The author gathers from the last chapter of Daniel, that this will probably be the commencement of the public conversion and restoration of the Jews. This will take place in 1822, at which time the 30 years or 1290 days will expire.
The third number, or remaining 45 years, will terminate in 1866, as the last of them, viz. 1867, is the first of the Millennium, when Satan’s kingdom in its heathenish, mahometan, and popish forms, shall have fallen as lightning from heaven, and antichrist shall be completely destroyed.
This period exactly synchronizes with the latter part of the 1260 days of John. These, Mr. Mason supposes, commenced in 606, when the emperor Phocas declared the bishop of Rome to be the head of the church. This is the second date, from which, John in his scheme of prophecy commences the rise of antichrist, which, though it terminates at the same time with Daniel’s, yet does not embrace the first 75 years of his 1335 days.—
This is a short abstract of the view of the rise and fall of antichrist taken by this excellent author. In some things it is entirely new. It is impossible to do it justice in this short compend of it. The book itself is recommended to the serious perusal of every one, who is longing for the time, when the little stone shall smite the image upon his feet, and shall break them to pieces, and itself shall become a great mountain and fill the whole earth.
Whatever be the mode of calculation, one thing is certain, the period of antichrist’s reign draws near to a close. A few years only remain, until the mystery of iniquity be finished. But much has to be done in these few years. “The kings of the earth must hate the whore, and burn her flesh with fire.” Forgetful of their vain determinations, and their futile leagues for an everlasting peace, they shall soon hear the alarm of war, and speedily be engaged in it. The remainder of the harvest must be reaped—the vintage must succeed the harvest and its judgments are terrible. The witnesses must be slain, and lie dead three years and a half, and rise again. Remarkable changes must take place, before these things can be accomplished. Popery may be established in Britain, before the slaying of the witnesses takes place. They must be slain where they exist; and it would seem reasonable too, where they exist in the greatest numbers. All who are acquainted with their true character, will admit that this is in the British dominions.* If popery be established there, where the reformation was the most perfect, we may expect it generally over all Europe. And it scarcely appears possible, that the witnesses could be slain without such an establishment. To persecute to the death—to shed the blood of the Martyrs of Jesus, requires all the sanguinary principles of the scarlet woman, aided by the power to carry them into execution. Let us never forget, however, that when God has work to be done, a short time will suffice.—One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.